cover image The Yankee at the Seder

The Yankee at the Seder

Elka Weber, , illus. by Adam Gustavson. . Tricycle, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-1-58246-256-1

When his mother invites a Union Army corporal—“a Yankee Jew” named Myer Levy—to join the family for Passover, Jacob is aghast: they're proud Virginia Confederates, and only 24 hours have passed since Lee's surrender. But Mother has tradition on her side: as she reminds Jacob, the Haggadah commands Jews to welcome “all who are hungry... all who are in need” to their seder tables. With a cinematic flair and rich, realist oils, Gustavson (A Very Improbable Story ) depicts how a détente between North and South is forged—albeit tenuously—by the timeless values of faith, civility and chicken soup. Basing her writing on a historical incident, Weber makes an impressive debut. The fiercely held loyalties and enthusiasms of her 10-year-old narrator feel authentic, and her gift for dialogue—especially the Southern-Jewish inflections of Jacob's family—makes the pages fly. Above all, she deserves great credit for not forcing her characters to hug and learn in the final pages. “Well, that was something, wasn't it?” the mother says as the Yankee departs. Sensitively written and beautifully illustrated. Ages 7–9. (Mar.)